House Committee Restarts Probe of Russia's Election Meddling

  • Intelligence panel seeks testimony by FBI’s Comey, four others
  • NSA director Rogers, Obama-era officials called to testify

The House Intelligence Committee is stepping up its probe into Russian interference in last year’s U.S. election, seeking testimony from five key witnesses including FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers.

Both have been asked to testify in a closed hearing on May 2, according to a statement Friday from the panel. In addition, the committee asked three former officials from President Barack Obama’s administration -- CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates -- to testify publicly at an unspecified later date.

The planned hearings reflect that a probe that ran aground is now resuming after the committee’s chairman was forced to recuse himself. But partisan differences persist: Democrats want to focus on the finding of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the election to help Donald Trump win, while some Republicans agree with Trump that the real issue is whether Obama’s administration spied on Trump’s campaign and leaked what they found.

Read about twists, questions in Trump-Russia saga -- a QuickTake Q&A

Comey already delivered explosive public testimony to the House committee in March, when he confirmed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating whether there was collaboration between Trump’s associates and Russia during the presidential campaign. He also testified that there’s no evidence to support the president’s allegation that Obama “wiretapped” Trump Tower last year.

Chairman’s Recusal

The invitations to current and former officials came two weeks after Representative Devin Nunes, the committee’s chairman, recused himself from the probe. He came under criticism for his handling of classified material, obtained from White House officials, that he said showed Obama administration officials “unmasked” the identities of people close to Trump who were mentioned in legal surveillance of foreign individuals.

Rather than share the information with other committee members, the California Republican held a press conference and then returned to the White House to brief Trump.

The top Democrat on the committee, Adam Schiff of California, had demanded Nunes step aside from the investigation, saying Nunes had compromised the integrity of the committee’s work.

Now, Republican Representative Mike Conaway of Texas is leading the Russia inquiry while the House ethics committee examines complaints that Nunes made unauthorized disclosures about the classified information. Republican members Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Tom Rooney of Florida -- both former prosecutors -- have been preparing to question witnesses.

In the Senate, Republican and Democratic leaders of the Intelligence Committee say they trust each other and are proceeding with their own investigation into Russian meddling, including the hacking and release of Democratic emails and possible collaboration.

— With assistance by Billy House, and Chris Strohm

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.